Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tell Me the Bright Side of Bethesda

Yesterday, I had to get up at first light and go to Bethesda for a training. This is even worse than it sounds.

I don't like Bethesda. I used to work up there, and I hated it for more than just the endless, rickety, barf-inducing Metro commute. A friend and I call it the Nexus of Evil, because the air is a little colder, no one ever smiles or holds the elevator, and the minivan mamas see pedestrians as little more than sentient speedbumps.

There are bright spots: if you're going to be stuck outside for a while, the Hyatt has outdoor heaters. There's a great cheap Chinese joint. There's also a Booeymonger and a Rock Bottom. And there was this great Red Line operator who would call it, "Betheeeeesda." But, once I stopped working up there, I never saw a reason to visit.

Which brings us back to yesterday: the Back to Bethesda Reunion Tour. I went, and nothing appears to have changed. None of the stores and restaurant had changed over. The same carpet joints still had the same, "Going Out of Business!" banners. (The least they could do is put a note underneath, "This Time, We Really Really Mean It!") The Bethesdians (Bethesdites?) wore the same downtrodden expressions they'd super-glued to their spirits two years ago.

It was all the same, and I hated all of it. But last night, as I teared up at the end of that inspirational tale of a delinquent-runaway-turned-teen bride, The Little Mermaid, I was hit with a ray of hope. Bethesda can't be all bad, after all, it's slightly warmer than Sarajevo. I don't like to write off an entire town (...except maybe Sarajevo). And, most importantly, I'll probably have to go up there for another training.

So, please, change my mind. In the comments, tell me something cool about Bethesda. If you can't think of anything, lie. Lie like a rug from a store that's been going out of business for two years. me.


charlotteharris said...

I can't tell you a dang thing about Bethesda. But I can confirm that it is not the only 'burb where the air is a little bit colder. I work in Ashburn VA, and when I emerge from my vehicle, I swear it is a good 10 degrees colder than when I got into my car at home.

HP said...

There's a sandwich place near that rug store that sells a decent veggie wrap and one can find the occasional fun used clothing item at Mustard Seed. There's a decent arty movie theatre and a couple stores that sell beautiful, albeit expensive, clothes. Oh, and there's a great Japanese grocery store should you get a hankering for real Japanese food.

Shannon said...

charlotteharris - I always thought it was the soul-killing concrete that gave Bethesda its unique temperature.

HP - Near which rug store? There are, like, seven. And I share your love of secondhand clothes.

Jamie said...

Louisiana Express used to be the bright side of Bethesda, but apparently it closed. I find it very strange that their web site is still operational, and gives no indication that they have closed.

Anyway, it's gone now, no point in going to Bethesda now. Oh, Strosnider's is pretty cool, too.

Lemmonex said...

There is a Moby Dick's up there. Awesome pitas and the like.

Shannon said...

Jamie - maybe they sell rugs now?

Lem - Oooh, I love kebab joints. But, there are kebabs lots of other places.

Anonymous said...

The best thing about Bethesda is that it is so easy to escape to more urban environs?
The best thing about Bethesda is that amid such homogeneous suburban grey the color of your personality shines brighter?
The best thing about Bethesda is that when it begins the soul sucking they use one of the large green straws so that it goes faster?

Jason Powell said...

Tyler Cowen says that this is an excellent Indian restaurant:

I'd listen to Tyler Cowen on just about anything food related. Until he says, "Be Adventurous." I draw the line at organs, thank you very much.

I'd say that Bethesda has a bunch more going for it. For example, it's not having rockets fired at it. Yet. Also, and I truly believe this, there's no risk of a surprise tsunami any time soon. I'm sure there's more, too! Just use your imagination!!

HomeImprovementNinja said...'s clean. Unlike in my neighborhood, people don't throw whatever their food was wrapped in on the floor. Also...the Original Waffle (pancake?) House has good grub. AND, unlike my hood, you can park your car there without getting your window broken (as my GF likes to remind me).

Anonymous said...

The Old Georgetown Grille is pretty good for breakfast. It's on the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Arlington Road. Other than that, I've got nuthin.

Shannon said...

Refugee - Bethesda is fancy...I bet they use bendy straws.

Jason - Welcome, and huh? Who is Tyler Cowen?

Ninja - your window, or your SOUL. Your call.

Thoughts - There's something weird about Arlington and Old Georgetown being in...Maryland. Geography is funny!

Arjewtino said...

I'm going to Bethesda next Tuesday for training, too.

I'm a little worried now.

Malnurtured Snay said...

I work in "northern" Bethesda, which I think means I work in part of "southern" Rockville which wants to sound more important than it currently does, and the only good thing about "northern" Bethesda is the DSW and the #96 shuttle to Grosvenor.

Shannon said...

Arjewtino - provided you aren't learning nonprofit management software, you should be OK.

Snay - I live in Far Eastern Georgetown.

And, so far, nobody's come up with any worthwhile reason to go to Bethesda.

suicide_blond said...

last time i had to go to bethesda...
i cried..
for reals..
i hate bethesda...

SheinMD said...

The only reason I go to Bethesda (once a year) is their Arts & Crafts festival. It's in October, I think, and it's actually pretty awesome. Tons of booths, tons of cool stuff...even if I can't afford any of it.

lacochran said...

I haven't been recently so this may be a bit dated...

I've heard that Bethesda has more restaurants per square mile than any other neighborhood and I believe it.

I liked Bacchus for the incredible range of appetizers. They still there?

I also used to like the Red Tomato. Good pasta and brick oven pizza.

Also, D. Gilpin is an amazing if very small jewelry store.

Oh, and I'm with ya on Rock Bottom.

Jerry Critter said...

So far it sounds like the best thing about Bethesda is leaving it.

brandonsavage said...

There's an Apple store in Bethesda.

007 in Africa said...

It's Bethesdites (for the record). On Wednesdays, there's a guy that sells cool used CDs at the flea market. I think he gets them from ex-cons that steal them from Bethesdites (there's a lot of Barbra Streissand). Other than that, I like the 15-year old pimply guys with changing voices. Oh wait, I'm not 14 anymore. Oops. Yes, Bethesda kind of blows...

LiLu said...

Bethesda is the one place I've always said I would live if I HAD to live outside of the District (but still in the area).

That said, I STILL have nothing to offer you. I think it's main draw is it's proximity to DC. And not much else.

Shannon said...

Blond - That's a strong reaction, there. But understandable.

SheinMD - I love a good craft market, but Eastern Market is closer for me.

Lacochran - I like Rock Bottom's food, and I pretty much like anywhere that has beer.

jerry - You may be the winner.

Brandon - I hate technology, so that's in the debit column for Bethesda.

007 - Bethesdites? Really? That sounds like an obscure religion.

LiLu - If I left the District, I'd live in...the District. I'm, like, hardcore.

Anonymous said...

The only good thing about Bethesda is that old people can't fight back.

Red said...

When I lived in Bethesda I could walk everywhere but park no where. I couldn't even park at my apartment.

They have tons of great restaurants and bars. Plus it's Metro accessible so you can stumble home on the metro.

You may get pushed off the sidewalk though. A couple once pushed my daughter off the sidewalk because they wouldn't stop holding hands. I got very loud about how rude they are pushing a child off the sidewalk.

Oh and I heard Louisiana Express did open another location. I think it's on Cordell where the New Orlean's Bistro was.

If you are going to Bethesda take LOTS of Quarters because they ticket the garages like crazy. But the garages are free on the weekends.

Shannon said...

Anon - I've never seen anyone over 40 in downtown Bethesda. It's like a yuppie Logan's Run.

Red - They PUSHED A CHILD OFF A SIDEWALK? That's the Bethesda I know (and don't) love! Also, the quarters in the parking garages drive me wacky. How hard is it to have tickets and a booth, like civilized people?

bh said...

TONS of high end divorce lawyers. I should know. Mine is probably reading this blog and charging me $400 an hour.

Anonymous said...

Tastee Diner, especially after midnight. The Writer's Center. The Farm Women's Market. Then again, I'm over 50, so that may have something to do with it.

Anonymous said...

The great Japanese grocery store mentioned earlier is most likely Daruma. They also sell prepared foods. It's one of the few places in the area where you can get such Japanese comfort food as curry rice.

Anonymous said...


I have been to the arts and crafts festival,and do enjoy going to the Landmark Theater once in a blue moon. Other than that, I minimize my time there.


Shannon said...

BH - My entire divorce cost about $400. Rock on, Alabama!

Anon #1 - As we age, we become less discriminating?

Anon #2 - I'll have to track that place down next time I'm up that way. Granted, I'm in Bethesda once every few years, but I'll look anyway.

Gil - So far, nothing's really jumped out at me as a great thing about Bethesda. Probably because most of what people cited is also available closer to me in the city.

rdo said...

The Pines of Rome.

KassyK said...

Lots of restaurants...that really cute indie theater that shows a lot of great films....Smoothie King...snotty people...annoying bars.

I am also vehemently against Bethesda. But it is clean and cute.

Oh Rio. I love Rio. Yum...

And Self magazine rated it the healthiest city in the COUNTRY against the board for women.

Anonymous said...

Pines of Rome. Good, hearty, CHEAP Italian, with wine in jelly glasses like mama used to use.


KassyK said...

Ugh I meant across the board...not against the board. Ha.

Anonymous said...

The best thing about Bethesda is the fact that they don't have the legal authority to force you to stay if you go up for any reason. I've never been to a city so devoid of character, personality or you know, human souls.

Wriiight said...

I moved to Bethesda because it is a walkable downtown environment with good schools and not nearly as dysfunctionally run as D.C. Metro access, bike trails, restaraunts, what's not to like? And not quite the outdoor shopping mall feel that has infected Arlington in the last decade.

Or so it seemed on paper. I turns out you are absolutely right about the people. Pure evil. My neighbors called Child and Protective Services because I let my kids play outside unsupervised one day. I keep thinking that one of the upsides of the financial crisis is that maybe a big chunk of these bastards will go bankrupt, or at least have to mow their own lawns for a change?

Shannon said...

rdo/Michael - will have to try Pines of Rome. Though my mom didn't drink wine out of jelly glasses - it was bad enough that she drank wine out of the box.

Kassy - I was picturing a bunch of women in Bethesda beating themselves up with two-by-fours. Which is a pretty good metaphor for being up there.

Shaw - Bethesda will EAT YOUR SOUL!!!!

Wriiight - Next time, send your kids out with two nannies, and, while you're at it, smother them in bubble wrap.

Judy said...

The bike/skate/walk path out from DC and the bagel shop. Good stuff.

Ellie said...

I had lived in D.C. for three years before being forced to go out in bethesda. Forced.

I will tell you how to survive it!
Take mini liquor bottles with you!
Get hammered so you won't notice how old any of the guys in cuffed/pleated pants are!!!

I really can't say a wrong word because I was stuck in that bar Caddy's for like eight hours that night and I got hammered, bought food for people, got more hammered (trying to block out the vision of the blond, super tan, army of munchkins that kept parading past shaking their hineys, yuck!) and then a lot more trashed.

End of the night count: 3: mini-liquor bottles consumed in bathroom (I wasn't prepared!) 12: beers consumed, 1: order of mini buffalo sandwiches, 1: order of sliders, 8: number of shots I consumed of varying content.(Don't judge, eight hours is a long time!)
23: the amount of my bill!
Yeah, $23!!!!

You do the math, Bethesda showed me a good time, even if I was forced to go there. And even if my own mini liquor bottles got me in the mood to survive it.

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